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Don't miss Al Myatt's profile of new ECU Chancellor Steven Ballard in the 2004 Bonesville Magazine.

View from the East
Monday, September 13, 2004

By Al Myatt

Payback still sweet 40 years later


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Bonesville Magazine

• PAT DYE: Short on Tenure, Long on Impact

• Recruit Profiles
• Rookie Books
• Tracking the Classes
• Florida Pipeline
• NCHSAA & ECU: Smooth Sailing Again


• STEVE BALLARD: New Leader Takes Charge

• SCOTT COWEN: Busting Down the Door

• KEITH LECLAIR on ECU's Field of Dreams

• BETH GRANT: Actress Still a Pirate


Bill Faircloth made another trip to Greenville this weekend. It was a much smoother ride than the one he made in 1963 and a more enjoyable trip back to Winston-Salem.

Back then, East Carolina College was hosting Wake Forest in the first game ever played at Ficklen Stadium and Faircloth was a senior captain for the Demon Deacons.

The legendary Clarence Stasavich was in his second year as coach of the upstart Pirates, and 17,000 fans — almost double the previous ECC attendance record — jammed into the facility to watch the spectacle.

Fast-forward more than four decades.

A crowd of 38,141 for ECU's 2004 home opener on Saturday night pushed all-time attendance at the structure now known as Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium to over 5 million.

"A lot's changed," said Faircloth in the aftermath of a 31-17 Wake win on Saturday night. "I've been down here four times as a player, a coach and an administrator. We're 2-2 (in Greenville) now.

"It's just a great feeling to win here because that was my senior year. I was a captain and I'm from Eastern North Carolina. That really hurt me, that first one. We're even right now. This is a good place to play and a good place to win."

The Pirates won the first ever football meeting between the two schools 20-10 in 1963. That Wake team was scoreless the next six games despite personnel that included Karl Sweetan and Brian Piccolo, who both went on to play in the NFL. That Deacons unit also included future coach John Mackovic.

"When we came down in 1963, it was about six hours from Winston-Salem," Faircloth said. "I don't think there was a tobacco barn east of Raleigh that didn't have 'Beat Wake Forest' on it."

Wake was confounded in '63 by ECU's single wing offense that sprung Tom Michel for three scores.

Faircloth is from Clinton, N.C. and graduated in the same high school class as new ECU athletic director Terry Holland.

"He's a great person and he's got a lot of good experience," Faircloth said. "It's a great tribute to East Carolina and also to him. He loves it down here. Both parties have got a good situation."

Faircloth said Holland was an exceptional football player in high school although he accepted a basketball scholarship to Davidson, where he became a star in a program on the rise under Lefty Driesell.

"He was a real good football player," Faircloth said of Holland. "He played end and he could run like a deer. He was a really good football player."

Holland and wife Ann mingled among ECU tailgaters, getting acquainted with Pirate fans prior to Saturday night's kickoff.

Grobe endorses ECU offense

Speaking of historical perspectives on the ECU football program, Jim Grobe also has a long term familiarity with the Pirates. Grobe brought his 1996 Ohio team to Greenville and was outscored 55-45.

Now in his fourth season as coach at Wake Forest, Grobe was impressed with ECU's systems and effort on Saturday night.

"They told us coming in, 'You're not going to run the orbit sweep, you're not going to run between the tackles,' " Grobe said. "What we had basically was Cory run and Cory throw. We were afraid to run much option because of the blitzes we were getting."

Wake quarterback Cory Randolph threw for 344 yards and ran for 94 more, tossing two TDs and scurrying 18 yards for another.

Trying to contain the creation of new ECU offensive coordinator Noah Brindise was another challenge.

"We were very fortunate to go in the first half with [ECU having] zero on the scoreboard," Grobe said. "In the second half, once they got rolling we could barely slow them down. What they're doing now — spreading you out, getting good athletes on your guys and making you work — I like what they're doing right now."

Grobe said his initial objective at Wake was to get his team playing hard. Second-year coach John Thompson is getting that same kind of effort, according to Grobe.

"They've got 'em playing hard," Grobe said. "That was a dogfight for us. It was the same way back in Winston-Salem last year. They're doing the things they need to do. They've got talent. I think it's just a matter of being around the program for awhile.

"If you look at their effort and the way they fly around — they play you hard."

The biggest difference between ECU now and the Pirate team Grobe faced with Ohio in 1996 is experience.

"They had a lot of vets, a lot of older players that had been around the block a few times," Grobe said of the '96 ECU team that went 8-3 without a bowl invitation. "John's playing a lot of young guys right now. I think that's probably the biggest difference. Steve (former ECU coach Logan) had been here a long time. He had a lot of older players. They had been there before so to speak.

"I think one problem when you're trying to get things going again is you're not only playing a lot of young players but you've only had a year or two that they've heard all those calls. ... They're trying to get a lot of young guys ready to play football and it's tough. I've been there. I know what he's going through."

Grobe on the Ficklen Factor

Wake was leading 24-3 in the third quarter when a fumble by Willie Idlette became a wake-up call for the fans at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

The Deacons were coming off a 37-30 double overtime loss at Clemson and suddenly found themselves trying to survive in another difficult environment.

"I was telling our athletic director, Ron Wellman, that I didn't notice a lot of difference crowd-wise here and when we were at Clemson," Grobe said. "It was a tough environment (at Clemson). They had nearly 80,000. When this crowd got into it, it was every bit as tough on our players.

"I think last week's experience at Clemson helped us in this environment. It's tough on the road. Everything you do wrong — whether it's a turnover, a missed assignment or a penalty — is magnified. I thought we did a pretty good job until Willie's fumble on the punt return of keeping the crowd kind of calmed down.

"We did that, the flood gates opened up and it was a horse race right to the finish."


ECU has an open date before hosting Cincinnati in its Conference USA opener at 7 p.m. on Sept. 25. The Pirates will practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week.


ECU running backs coach Jerry McManus played at Wake Forest and Wake running backs coach Billy Mitchell played at ECU.


Offensive coordinator Noah Brindise selected tight end Sean Harmon in a tryout for the receiver pass that was thrown incomplete to Art Brown in the third quarter after a 62-yard run by Brown got ECU in scoring position. "Art may have been gassed," Brindise said. "I might should have gotten another tailback in there."


Harmon may be seeing more playing time. Brindise said a fourth quarter knee injury to tight end Shawn Levesque looked severe. Running back Marvin Townes went out with a right knee sprain but true freshman Chris Johnson stepped up with an 86-yard scoring run that drew ECU within 24-17 with 1:13 left in the third quarter. "I think we saw that Chris is going to be our guy when Marvin is gone," Brindise said.


Edwin Rios had seven catches for 113 yards and two touchdowns in the season opener at West Virginia but was not a factor against the Deacons. Bobby Good was the go-to guy with six catches for 122 yards and a score against Wake. "We don't have a star receiver," Brindise said. "We've got five good ones but no one that we necessarily game plan for. We feel like they're all equal."


Encouraging thought: ECU has scored 40 points in its first two games. The Pirates didn't score their 40th point until the fifth game last season.


While new stadium public address voice Jay Butler has a good degree of enthusiasm, he occasionally got his information mixed up in the season opener. Are there spotters assisting him upstairs?


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02/23/2007 12:46:29 AM

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